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African American spelling bee champ makes history with flair

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Posted at 8:40 AM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 09:40:38-04

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The nation's first African American winner has breezed to victory at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Fourteen-year-old Zaila Avant-garde of Harvey, Louisiana, didn't show much stress on stage and only struggled with one word in Thursday's finals.

She is only the second Black champion in the bee's 96-year history after Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica in 1998.

Zaila described spelling as a side hobby, though she routinely practiced seven hours daily.

A basketball prodigy, she hopes to play in the WNBA and holds three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously.

Zaila leaped with excitement after spelling the winning word, “Murraya,” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees.